The truth is out there in us
Starry night sky, getting lost in thoughts about feeling connected, the X-Files and keeping an open mind.
You know, I never stop to think… that the light is billions of years old by the time we see it. From the beginning of time right past us into the future. Nothing is ancient in the universe. But, maybe they are souls, Scully. Traveling through time as starlight, looking for homes. — Mulder to Scully looking up at the night sky, in “Closure”
As likely many geeks over the past weeks I revisited The X-Files and began watching the old seasons, getting prepared for a new season. It’s amazing how much of the episodes I remembered, despite that I never have been much of an X-Files fan. Back in the days I watched the show mostly for Scully, liked more the psychological monster of the week cases, and was rather annoyed by the conspiracy brew and Mulder’s obsession with his missing sister. Never kept track of all the subtleties and twists of the latter. Didn’t mind to miss an episode, but somehow over the years managed to watch every episode and the movies at least once.
There are plenty of moments I missed or forgot about though. Like that scene in the episode “Closure” the quote above is from. Although not much of a surprise that I forgot about this scene, after all it was one of those episodes of Mulder obsessing over his sister, so I likely paid not close attention to all scenes. The episode “Closure” aired in the U.S. first on February 13th 2000. It so happened, that , while everybody was tweeting and living Valentine’s day this year, I rewatched this episode, pretty much 16 years after it first aired. Coincidence, I didn’t plan for it.
Looking at stars
Being unaware of that episode and scene I told someone around that time in 2000 something similar to what Mulder is saying to Scully. I was explaining why I find the look at the stars at night calming and why it makes me feel connected with everything. Standing alone in the middle of a field or a backyard in the night seeing the sky above, the stars, just such a small section of the universe, are moments I feel the least alone and the most real, while in the middle of a bustling crowd I can feel like the most invisible, unconnected and lone person in the world and doubt if anything is real. I explained to a friend, how much I feel connected with life and everything when staring at a night sky, seeing the stars, assuming, even sensing past, present and future is rolled into one moment, seeing light, that has traveled billions of years, and it will go on traveling and might be seen by others when I, when even Earth will be long gone. I find that sensation comforting, a never ending marvel.
I wasn’t thinking of the X-Files though while talking to my friend but of the opening of the movie Contact, the movie from 1997 with Jodie Foster, based on Carl Sagan’s novel. A movie about making contact with life beyond Earth. I love the opening of that movie. It made me hold my breath when there was that moment the screen feel silent and so maybe a second later did the audience in the theater, holding any rummaging, shuffling with popcorn boxes, clothing or whatever, stopping any whispering and the last efforts to get seated and ready for the story to begin. A long lasting second of silence and motionlessness, a moment of awe. Then we hear a new sound, following the voice of a girl getting louder, and the camera zooms out, revealing her eye, her face, the face of the main person of the story, Ellie (as adult played by Jodie Foster). Inside out. The story of the movie begins.
Staring at a night sky and feeling connected with everything was a sensation I had only just discovered at that time. The first time since innocent childhood days that I had find a bit of peace in my mind, a mind that usually is filled with a hurricane of sounds, images, thoughts and more. I’ve tried some things to find a moment of peace in my mind, drugs, meditation, those kind of things. But without reason and no extra means one night returning home it just happened. I looked up, stood still and felt it: peace and a connection with life through space and time. Just for a moment, but that was enough. It’s beauty.
I can’t call this feeling up every time I look at a night sky, but often enough it comes up. You might call it a religious experience, a spiritual one, but I am not a religious person, more of an agnostic. As such very well I can theorize, we might be connected with everything in ways, but I don’t think of it in the mystical ways some are believing in. We are simply part of what is. Doesn’t mean that there is some higher sentient power at work or some organized thing going on, but neither that there can’t be something going on. Science as it is doesn’t have the means yet to prove or disprove that, and I think it’s not important to do so.
But if there truly is a physical or spiritual connection of any kind to discover or experience is not what my sensation is about. It’s a fleeting moment to simply enjoy. It’s likely just my imagination making sense because my mind likes to make sense of things.
And the X-Files are a lot about making sense, aren’t they?
Despite that the episodes, the writing and plots of the X-Files sometimes don’t make much sense.
I started writing this piece before the new episode 5 of season 10 aired and had no clue that “Babylon” would tie into my thought train here quite nicely. Just another coincidence. While watching “Babylon” I thought, they might cross some people with it, and that many others might not like it, finding it too absurd or maybe on the nose. And indeed, afterwards read a number of commentaries not happy with the episode to say the least, and some trying to shrug it off with that episodes of X-Files bringing up religion were often not so good. The latter view particular made me snicker as I am thinking that all of the X-Files, the whole show is a lot about faith, believing, trust, conviction and thus, as I see it, about religion, though not in a narrow sense.
There is Mulder, skeptical if it comes to the question of a god or (benevolent) higher power, an atheist who though said, he wants to believe, believe that his sister was still alive, believe in things being explainable though sometimes not with established science, believe in something going on, in things making sense. And there is Scully, devoted Catholic but a skeptical scientist bound on finding explanation through science, while over time admitting there might be things she can’t explain and go beyond it. But while she believes, or wants to believe in god, she doubts that there is some big plan, conspiracy going on.
Science and religion. Doesn’t have to be exclusive. And might share more than seems obvious.
Truth by the numbers
In our world unfortunately science has become to some a sort of religion. Some get obsessed with numbers blind to the possibilities that numbers and facts can describe a situation but not always tell what is right and what is wrong. Often enough numbers support a number of interpretations and outcomes. Frequently it is still up to us to make a decision and to weigh in, to judge what we deem as right or wrong. Not to mention, we err even in science. We take numbers and facts and are convinced, they support a certain theory, but after a while new numbers and facts come up or we take a new look at the numbers and facts we have, and then things look different and the theory proves to be not correct. That is a normal part of science, it means to keep an open mind, that things always could be a bit different than we right now assume. But it looks to me like some, maybe a lot of people struggle with that openness of science. They prefer absolute answers, they want assurance and not uncertainty and more questions. How often do people tell me, “but that is proven by science!” implying I should stop questioning their interpretation and view, refusing to hear, there might be other numbers and other views possible. Or they tell me “it’s natural” so no way it could be different, not even variations possible. If something is so by nature how dare I to question it? They could as well tell me, with the same fervor, God made it so.
For some people there is not much of a difference. They want to believe that there are at least some things written in stone, be it by God or by nature. Despite that we humans never cared about it, we interpret and read into God’s will as much as we interpret and read into nature. We try to change God’s will as much as we try now to find ways to change nature.
And we disagree sometimes about our interpretations and what actions should follow. Disagree about what is right and what is wrong. Disagree about meaning and words, sometimes only seemingly talking the same language.
Already disagree often enough about what we hear and see.
Meanwhile when it comes to religions the voices of fanatics seems to drown the open minded and modest ones again. Fanatics are not talking of faith and trust in others but of absolute dedication and submission, not love but hate. Instead of just let life be simple beauty of life, everything becomes and has to be a tool to serve the only one purpose they have declared as truth.
If religion or science, treasuring doubts and keeping an open mind is a good thing.
It was one of the things I loved about the X-Files back in the days, that they questioned science and religion, mythologies, believe systems of all kind, while finding faith and trust in relations between people. It was about doubting the truth out there, while there might be truth to find in and between us.
And The X-Files did this with a certain tone of ludicrousness. This show never took itself overly serious. While some fans certainly did and do take the show serious.
Somehow the most recent episode “Babylon” reminded me of Theatre of the Absurd. Aside that our protagonists, Scully and Mulder, are not stereotypical though somewhat lost in an incomprehensible world, but most of the other characters were rather stereotypes. Even the younger “twins” of Scully and Mulder, Einstein and Miller hadn’t that much depth to offer most of the episode. There was illogical, meaningless and confusing dialogue and scenes, and I mean not just the magical mystery tour Mulder went on. The episode appeared disjointed and made little sense, and even little sense in a so far rather disjointed short season. Nothing seems to fit together and nothing seems connected so far, even less than usual with the X-Files. Disjointed, scattered and communication confounded so that people are not understanding each other, becoming isolate. A break down of communication — the Tower of Babel. As Babylon is in the Bible a spiritual harlot bringing corruption, called “the Mother of Prostitutes and Abominations of the Earth”. A feast for conspiracy theories.
But Mulder speaks at the end of the episode of the power of mother love to overcome hate and anger maybe. And Scully talks of finding a common language again.
Listen to the silence
Well… maybe it’s beyond words. Maybe we should do like the prophets and… open our hearts and truly listen. — Scully (Babylon)
If you want to connect with the world around you, you have to listen to it and not only talk to it and even less shout at it.
It so happens that this episode of the X-Files ends with the camera zooming out until we see Earth, the blue marble in space.
So back to where I started. Staring at a night sky and the stars and feeling connected with everything through space and time, listening to the silence that is so auspiciously full of life.
Deux exces : exclure la raison, n’admettre que la raison. — Blaise Pascal
( slightly edited reblogged from my Tumblr-Blog)